Posts Tagged ‘Torture’
I vividly remember when Obama voted for telecom immunity after promising that he would vote against it. Ever since then, I’ve been cautious/suspicious, and now that I see him echoing the Bush stance on secrecy regarding torture, I’m disappointed. Marisa Taylor of McClatchy has the story:
The Obama administration, which vowed to usher in a "new era of openness in our country," either has delayed action on requests for access to government records or refused to disclose them in three early, high-profile tests of the pledge.
This week, Justice Department lawyers announced that they’d continue to assert the state secrets argument made by the Bush administration in a lawsuit alleging that five men were tortured abroad in U.S.-run prisons.
In a separate case, the Obama Justice Department has agreed with the Bush administration — at least initially — that the news media shouldn’t have immediate access to court records in the ongoing Guantanamo detainee litigation.
In another example, the administration on Wednesday told the American Civil Liberties Union that it needed more time to decide whether to release undisclosed Bush Justice Department memos that justified harsh interrogation practices. A federal judge already had given government lawyers more time in the matter, which has been pending for five years.
"It looks like the new administration is stalling for time," said Jameel Jaffer, the director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. "They’ve offered a very public commitment to transparency, but so far that has not translated into action."
Interesting story from several aspects in McClatchy:
Britain has asked the U.S. for the immediate release of a former British resident who’s now on a hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, and the Obama administration has agreed to a "priority" review, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Wednesday.
The furor in Britain has put the Obama administration in an awkward position. President Barack Obama ordered a review of the more than 200 detainees still being held at Guantanamo within days of his inauguration three weeks ago, but he has yet to create a mechanism for releasing them.
Miliband said the Obama administration had yet to decide on the case of Binyam Mohamed, but he said that Britain and the U.S. would continue to work together "to achieve a swift resolution."
Mohamed’s case has become a major embarrassment to the British government. He alleged that he’d been tortured in Morocco at the behest of the U.S. government, with U.S. and British intelligence officials taking part in the interrogations.
Attorneys for Mohamed have said that classified U.S. documents prove that he was tortured and demonstrated British complicity in the process. The British government has said it was unable to release the documents after the U.S. warned that any such action would jeopardize intelligence sharing between the two countries.
The White House on Wednesday refused to discuss Mohamed’s prospects for release. A senior administration official confirmed that the U.S. was talking to British officials about Mohamed’s status and "have greatly appreciated the efforts of our British allies." The official spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the case…
Despite years of denials, new questions are being raised about Britain’s possible involvement in the torture of a detainee now on a prolonged hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
Both an American military lawyer who’s seen classified documents on the case and the head of a special parliamentary committee said Tuesday that the British government might have been complicit in the alleged mistreatment of Binyam Mohamed. The former British resident was seized in 2002 and held in several countries — including Morocco, where he claims he was tortured — before being transferred to Guantanamo in 2004.
Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley, a U.S. military lawyer assigned to defend Mohamed, said that British intelligence agency "MI5 was involved a long time ago" in the interrogation of her client.
"They were feeding certain information to his interrogators when he was in Morocco," said Bradley, who’s in London this week to lobby members of Parliament to press for her client’s release and his return to Britain.
Meanwhile, Andrew Tyrie, a Conservative member of Parliament and the head of a committee investigating extraordinary renditions — the international transfer of suspected terrorists by the U.S. — said he’s also convinced that Mohamed was "severely tortured" during interrogations and that British officials had a role in his mistreatment.
Tyrie said the official line on British involvement in torture "has gone from flat denials to a succession of admissions that there was involvement." The latter have come in the form of court documents, the most recent being last week’s ruling by a British high court.
Tyrie also said Parliament’s intelligence and security committee, which has broader authority than his own, "appears to have been misled" about Britain’s role in interrogations and torture of American detainees when it was preparing an official report on the subject in 2007. That report cleared Britain of any wrongdoing, saying the CIA never told British officials where detainees were being held or how they were being treated.
It emerged last week that 42 classified documents seen by the British court and Mohamed’s lawyers had never been passed on to the intelligence and security committee when it was researching Britain’s role in the case the case.
A possible probe of British intelligence agencies is …
Dear Obama Administration,
“In a closely watched case involving rendition and torture, a lawyer for the Obama administration seemed to surprise a panel of federal appeals judges on Monday by pressing ahead with an argument for preserving state secrets originally developed by the Bush administration.
In the case, Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian native, and four other detainees filed suit against a subsidiary of Boeing for arranging flights for the Bush administration’s “extraordinary rendition” program, in which terrorism suspects were secretly taken to other countries, where they say they were tortured. The Bush administration argued that the case should be dismissed because even discussing it in court could threaten national security and relations with other nations.
During the campaign, Mr. Obama harshly criticized the Bush administration’s treatment of detainees, and he has broken with that administration on questions like whether to keep open the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But a government lawyer, Douglas N. Letter, made the same state-secrets argument on Monday, startling several judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
“Is there anything material that has happened” that might have caused the Justice Department to shift its views, asked Judge Mary M. Schroeder, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, coyly referring to the recent election.
“No, your honor,” Mr. Letter replied.
Judge Schroeder asked, “The change in administration has no bearing?”
Once more, he said, “No, Your Honor.” The position he was taking in court on behalf of the government had been “thoroughly vetted with the appropriate officials within the new administration,” and “these are the authorized positions,” he said.”
There are so many, many, many things wrong with this. For starters, It’s a big, big mistake for any branch of government to have the power to simply declare that whole subjects are out of bounds, without any check on its veracity. We should have learned this from the very first case that established the state secrets privilege: the government said it could not divulge facts central to that case without jeopardizing national security, but when the documents involved were finally declassified, it turned out that it was just covering up for its own mistakes. The Obama administration cannot be expected to have reversed the court decisions on which this power depends in its first few weeks of office. But it can absolutely be expected not to use this power absent truly extraordinary circumstances.
It would be one thing if the state secrets privilege meant only that …
Continue reading. And then write a note to Obama:
What happened to transparency? What happened to finding out the truth? Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent finds that Obama’s promises in this area were false, false, false. The article begins:
In a move that’s sure to dismay some of President Obama’s faithful, the new administration today stood up in a federal appeals court and reiterated the Bush administrations’ arguments that victims of “extraordinary rendition” and torture should not be allowed to bring their claims in federal court because doing so would reveal “state secrets” and harm national security.
As we first reported in late January, the Bush administration had succeeded in getting the case, Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, dismissed by arguing that subject of the lawsuit — the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program — was itself a state secret, regardless of how many times President Bush and various CIA directors had talked publicly about it.
Countering the arguments of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented five victims of the program who all claim they were abducted abroad and shipped to a foreign country to be brutally tortured, the government claimed that even allowing the federal judge overseeing the case to review any classified evidence behind closed doors would endanger national security.
The ACLU, the bipartisan Constitution Project and others have been watching this case closely. Since we first reported on it, in the past week The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times‘ editorial boards have both weighed in, urging the Obama administration to reconsider the Bush Justice Department’s claims.
Today, we got our answer: Obama’s executive orders and presidential memoranda on ending needless government secrecy notwithstanding, the Bush administration’s view that allowing torture victims to have their day in court is a danger to national security still stands.
It’s worth noting that while it’s still early in the new administration and Attorney General Eric Holder was just recently confirmed, the Justice Department did NOT ask the court for more time to consider its views on the case. Instead, it supported the Bush administration’s position that the case should be dismissed.
The Obama administration took a similar position in a related British case that I wrote about last week.
None of this bodes well for the likelihood of obtaining additional information about the Bush administration’s interrogation policies in the future.
Update: Here’s what ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero had to say after today’s hearing: …
Continue reading. So the deal Obama proposes is this: the US government can pick you up without a warrant, transport you to a foreign country with no due process, torture you to a fare-thee-well, figure out finally that you’re totally innocent of any wrongdoing, and you have no recourse, you get no restitution. You are SOL.
The sound you hear is total disgust. What Obama and Holder are doing is against the basic principles of this country.
Last week, two British High Court judges ruled against releasing documents describing the treatment of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident who is currently being held at Guantanamo Bay. The judges said the Bush administration “had threatened to withhold intelligence cooperation with Britain if the information were made public.”
But The Daily Telegraph reported over the weekend that the documents actually “contained details of how British intelligence officers supplied information to [Mohamed’s] captors and contributed questions while he was brutally tortured.” In fact, it was British officials, not the Americans, who pressured Foreign Secretary David Miliband “to do nothing that would leave serving MI6 officers open to prosecution.” According to the Telegraph’s sources, the documents describe particularly gruesome interrogation tactics:
The 25 lines edited out of the court papers contained details of how Mr Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel and other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding, the controversial technique of simulated drowning, “is very far down the list of things they did,” the official said.
Another source familiar with the case said: “British intelligence officers knew about the torture and didn’t do anything about it.”
“It is very clear who stands to be embarrassed by this and who is being protected by this secrecy. It is not the Americans, it is Labour ministers,” former shadow home secretary David Davis said. But one unnamed U.S. House Judiciary Committee member told the Telegraph that if President Obama “doesn’t act we could hold a hearing or write to subpoena the documents. We need to know what’s in those documents.”
Update: Today in San Francisco, "a little-publicised court case into the treatment of Mohamed will open" in federal court. Andrew Sullivan notes that "we’ll find out if the Obama administration intends to keep the evidence as secret as the Bush administration did."